When Toni-Marie Wiseman, a reporter and anchor with NTV News in St. John’s, became pregnant in late 2009, she was so surprised she almost didn’t believe it.
“I was 43. I had never been pregnant, so I wasn’t expecting it,” Wiseman said in a recent interview.
She had resigned herself to the possibility of never having a child because while she hadn’t been taking measures to prevent pregnancy for a number of years, nothing had happened.
Then one week, she began feeling ill with severe heartburn.
“I couldn’t eat a thing. I love chocolate and I couldn’t eat chocolate. I was sick every day. I felt as though I had a really horrible hangover, and I don’t drink, so it wasn’t a hangover,” she said.
Wiseman’s family doctor told her it was probably a stomach ulcer.
It was her mother, in a telephone conversation, who gave her the accurate diagnosis.
“I was telling my mom my symptoms and she said, ‘My love, you’re pregnant,’” Wiseman said.
A pregnancy test and followup visit to her doctor confirmed it.
Wiseman said she thought it was a rare miracle at her age, but within a few days she found out that a friend around the same age was pregnant, as was one of her co-worker’s wives, who is in her late 40s.
“It was kind of comforting and reassuring, all at the same time, that there were other people my age, because when you find out you’re pregnant at that age, not only do you think, goodness I’m an older person being pregnant, the medical community makes you feel that way to some extent because you’re referred to, I guess, clinically as a geriatric pregnancy,” Wiseman said.
Aside from that unflattering term, she said there were benefits to being an older pregnant woman in the health-care system.
Within three weeks of learning she was pregnant, Wiseman had her first ultrasound, whereas some younger women she knew didn’t get their first ultrasound until they were several months into their pregnancy.
“So, in some ways it was nice the way I got to see my baby before other people get to see their babies. I felt very protected, which was very reassuring,” she said.
Wiseman said she was treated gingerly and was advised to have genetic testing and amniocentesis to check for possible abnormalities. Within a few days, her mind was eased when the results showed that everything was OK.
Grace Lydia Delilah Butler was born on Aug. 7, 2010 to Wiseman and her partner, Kenny Butler, an IT instructor and musician.
Wiseman was 44.
“I’m over the moon, I can’t believe it,” Wiseman said, while at home caring for her daughter on one of her days off from work.
“And the most interesting thing, so far, has been all of the things that people with children tell people without children that make you roll your eyes, is true,” she said. “Like, there’s no love in the world like the love you have for your child.”
Now 45, Wiseman believes being an older mom can make for a more enjoyable experience when you’re not as worried about finances, what your friends are doing or about establishing your career.
“The thought of taking a year off when you’re in your 20s while trying to establish yourself as a reporter or television host is frightening, because you think, if I take a year off, all the people that are here now will pass me and they’ll get that job that I’m hoping to get in a few years …” Wiseman said.
“I knew that I could take a year off and I wouldn’t lose the job.”
And, usually, she said, women who are older are in solid relationships, so you’ve got someone to help you.
She said she was worried for a while when she realized she’ll be 49 when her daughter starts kindergarten.
“I thought, gosh, I’m going to be that old woman in the room, but I know now I’m not going to be the old woman in the room, because there’s so many other people who are having children at my age, it seems to be the thing to do.”
A recent Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) study shows that women having babies later in life is a trend across the country.
Data from 2006-07 and 2008-09 showed that almost 18 per cent of live births in Canada, and about 14.2 per cent of live births in this province, were to mothers 35 and older.
The report, In Due Time: Why Maternal Age Matters found that provincial rates range from a high of 22.3 per cent in British Columbia to 6.7 per cent in Nunavut.
Wiseman said when she thinks of women in their late 20s and early 30s getting married and having children, they seem too young.
“I think, oh my, you’ve got so much life to live yet.”
Wiseman said when she was that age she wasn’t irresponsible, but she was somewhat self-centred, and worried about clothes and hair and the next job she was going to get.
“I know I would have been a great mother at any age because I would have loved the child, but I don’t think that I would have enjoyed it as much as now,” she said. “I think the baby would be taken care of in exactly the same way, but I think, in my own thoughts, in my alone time, I would have felt, gosh, why didn’t I wait, or this is really, really hard.”
Wiseman said she feels she had more knowledge and wisdom to give her daughter.
“I’ve got the experience of life now, of work life and social life and relationship life that I can give her.”
She’s candid about one possible downside to having children at an older age.
“The only thing that bothers me about being an older mom is I don’t have as much time with her as a younger mom would have. When she’s my age, chances are I won’t be here.”
Wiseman still has her mom, who’s 72, but when Grace is 45, Wiseman will be 90.
“I could be here, but I won’t be here the way my mother at 72 is here,” she said.
“I probably won’t or may not see grandchildren — you know, those things. Or I may not see a wedding.”
But she doesn’t dwell on the negative.
“Everything seems so new and refreshed,” she said. “I’m the happiest now that I’ve ever been in my entire life. I have my career and the success. I’m established. … I’m probably where I’m going to be for the rest of my career. So, I can breathe now, and I come home and I have a wonderful partner who supports me, and a wonderful baby. So, I have at this age the best of everything.”
Wiseman said she’s the strongest she’s ever felt, emotionally, physically and mentally.
“I think, too, people respect you more for being a mother. They smile at you a little bit more,” she said. “Well I’m in the club now, aren’t I? I know the secret now that everybody had before — people out there, viewers, co-workers, they all had that secret, those who had children — that only people who have children know.”
Wiseman said Grace has enriched her life more than she ever imagined.
“I’m happier. She has done so much for me. She’s also made me love her dad more, and my mother. I get now why my mother wants me to call her when I drive across the island. It’s as though I’ve had the aha moment.”